Two men have been arrested in connection with an elaborate scheme that resulted in them stealing tens of thousands of dollars in copper pipes from home improvement stores locally and around upstate New York, according to State Police.
The duo victimized the Lowe’s Home Improvement stores in Queensbury and Wilton, as well as other Lowe’s stores as far south as Binghamton and west as Utica over the past few months, stealing up to $1,500 worth of copper with each visit, authorities said.
Charged with felony grand larceny and misdemeanor conspiracy in Queensbury Town Court were David W. Messmore, 51, of Schenectady and Keith D. Anderson, 52, of Niskayuna, according to State Police. Both will also face charges in numerous other counties as they are linked to thefts at other stores.
The men were picked up Monday in Herkimer, where they were in the process of visiting a Lowe’s store, officials said.
State Police said the men developed a system where they would fill plastic piping with copper pipes and then pay for the plastic without store staff realizing that there was multiple pieces of copper inside. For instance, they would pack 4-inch PVC pipe with sections of copper pipes of varying thicknesses and then cap the PVC so that they were not visible.
Officials said they got out of the store with the pipes when one of the men distracted a clerk and made a small purchase, hitting stores locally as well as Colonie, Catskill, Schenectady and points beyond. Police believe they sold the pipes to plumbers they knew in the Schenectady area to support cocaine and heroin habits, officials said.
State Police in Queensbury were contacted when Lowe’s corporate security began looking into the disappearance of copper piping, and surveillance video allowed them to identify potential suspects. State Police investigators from the Queensbury station then figured out the identities of the men and were able to locate them Monday.
Police said the men initially included Home Depot stores during the first weeks of their scheme, but for reasons that weren’t clear they targeted only Lowe’s in the months that followed. The Queensbury Home Depot store was not victimized, however.
A call to the Lowe’s store in Queensbury was not returned Tuesday.
The police investigation was ongoing this week, and investigators were working to see if any other police agencies had received complaints about similar thefts or other stores may have been victimized.
Both men were arraigned in Queensbury Town Court and sent to Warren County Jail for lack of bail. Both have prior felony convictions, with Messmore having been to state prison twice for arson, burglary and criminal possession of a forged instrument convictions.